Ross Douthat replies to TNR’s review of his book Bad Religion:

"But such unfairnesses are typical of hostile book reviews, and I don’t begrudge Winters the right to be obnoxious to someone he considers—wrongly, in my view, but obviously not in his—to be his political and theological antagonist on every front.

The license afforded by the genre of polemic, however, does not grant him the right to be explicitly mendacious. He clearly has a vendetta, of sorts, against Michael Novak and George Weigel and the style of Catholic neoconservatism that they represent. But they are not me, their writings are not mine, and he has done his readers a disservice by reviewing Bad Religion through the lens of that vendetta, and ignoring the book I actually wrote.”

- Ross Douthat, Bad Religion: A Response

Photo courtesy of Dawgs By Nature

Does Ross Douthat know what he’s talking about?

"My problem with Douthat’s book is not that his opinions differ from my own. My problem is that he does not seem to have any idea what he is talking about. In the West, there has been no universally accepted authoritative voice on orthodoxy since the Reformation. “What am I to do when many persons allege different interpretations, each one of whom swears to have the Spirit?” asked Erasmus in 1524. But Douthat does not see the larger picture that he aims to explain, and his treatment of his subject is so pitifully mistaken in things large and small that what we are left with is a meandering, self-serving screed. The book has the same reliance on private judgment that anyone who was really concerned with heresy would recognize as part of the problem, not part of the solution."

- Michael Sean Winters review Ross Douthat’s Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics

Photo courtesy of Socrates58

What can a new book tell us about the real ‘Mad Men’? 

"I don’t know about evil, but it had certainly become boring by the ’50s, dominated by sober, patrician types who would have been just as comfortable filling legal briefs as writing ads. Indeed, their work reflected all the creativity of contracts law. Cracknell calls the hidebound industry “little more than a shouted bulletin board.” Ads of that time were for the most part dutiful, accurate descriptions of products—“fiercely honorable” Cracknell brands the ad man of the ’50s, in what is not even remotely a compliment. And then Don Draper walked into the room."

- Alexander Nazaryan “Promotions

Photo courtesy of AMC

Were cigarettes the greatest crime of the twentieth century?

"Moral outrage over the tobacco industry’s century-long (and counting) merchandising of death colors every word of this book, from the title page to the final entry in the index. When you finish reading this superbly contextualized and harrowing work, I predict you will not only share Proctor’s ire, you will even agree with his titular word choice. (Well, almost; and I hope not.)"

- Howard Markel, “The Very Deadliest Habit

Photo courtesy of CBS

What can a 1960s memoir teach us about today’s social movements?

"There is rather too much boilerplate history in Bill Zimmerman’s account, but for all its occasional self-dramatization it reminds us, in a timely way, of the immensity of the radical movement that swept America in the ’60s, of the manifold ways in which it engaged a host of activists and eventually became sublimated into an enduring feature of American culture and politics. At a time when journalists persist in judging the Occupy movement by its easily visible signs and accomplishments of the past hundred days, Troublemaker is a useful reminder of how much of a social movement takes place in a profusion of lives, under the surface, among the unfamous."

-Todd Gitlin’s Review of Troublemaker: A Memoir from the Front Lines of the Sixties by Bill Zimmerman 

Photo courtesy of Kent State University

What can we learn from Mark A.R. Kleiman, Jonathan P. Caulkins, and Angela Hawken’s new book Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know?

"Despite tens of billions of dollars spent on interdicting drugs from abroad, the supply of drugs has remained steady. The plummeting street price of many illegal drugs over the last few decades is compelling evidence that interdiction has not done much to stem supply. Drug overdoses have increased almost six-fold in the last thirty years. They are now the leading cause of accidental death in the United Sates, having surpassed motor vehicle accidents for the first time in 2011."

-Marie Gottschalk, “Kicking the Habit

Photo courtesy of Christian Science Monitor